A Free-Market Energy Blog

Kyoto Redux? This Canadian Worries

By Tom Harris -- June 9, 2015

“Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, and the U.S. never ratified it, largely because it lacked legally binding GHG targets for developing countries. So why are developed country governments, those of Canada and the U.S. included, supporting a process that will result in our nations being stuck in another Kyoto?”

John F. Kennedy once said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

In announcing the Canadian government’s new greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets on May 15, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq perpetuated one of the many myths of the climate change debate when she said that Canada will “work with our international partners to establish an international agreement in Paris that includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters.”

Aglukkaq is not alone in making such assertions. The idea that all countries, developed and developing nations alike, will be held to GHG reduction targets as a result of the United Nations’ climate change agreement being planned for December in Paris is trumpeted by politicians worldwide. They say this largely because main stream media say it. But it is hopelessly naïve, muddled thinking.

The push from the press started right after the issuance of last December’s “Lima Call for Climate Action,” the U.N.’s last major climate change agreement. The Associated Press’s (AP) Karl Ritter wrote in his December 15, 2014 piece “Last minute deal salvaged UN climate talks” that a

“ last-minute deal that salvaged U.N. climate talks from collapse early Sunday sends a signal the rich-poor divide that long held up progress can be overcome with a year to go before a landmark pact is supposed to be adopted in Paris … the Paris agreement would be the first to call on all countries to control their emissions.

Some reporters were more definitive. Writing for the New York Times News Service on December 14, 2014, Coral Davenport told readers everywhere from the Boston Globe to the Hamilton Spectator to Today, Singapore’s second most-read newspaper, that

“Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement yesterday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Canadians, and indeed, the public in all developed nations, are being tricked. Any GHG emission reduction pledges made by developing countries in Paris later this year will almost certainly not be enforced. Written in bureaucratese, the convoluted first sentence in the Lima agreement indicated exactly that. It reads:

“The Conference of the Parties, Reiterating that the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) shall be under the Convention and guided by its principles.”

The ADP is the sleeper in the unfolding climate policy disaster. They are the backroom negotiators who are drafting the text for the Paris agreement.

The “Convention” refers to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty, signed by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, U.S. President George H.W. Bush, and hundreds of other world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Article 2 of the UNFCCC states:

“The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Reports such as those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) demonstrate that climate science is far too immature to know what, if any, GHG concentrations would cause “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” According to Dr. Bob Carter, an NIPCC lead author and former Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia, “Science has yet to provide unambiguous evidence that problematic, or even measurable, human-caused global warming is occurring.”

So the UNFCCC and anything derived from it such as Kyoto, the agreement currently being concocted for Paris, and the Green Climate Fund into which Western nations are pouring billions of dollars, are all based on an illusion. It is the mistaken idea that the science is sufficiently advanced that we know we can control global climate merely by tinkering with our GHG emissions.

Now, since the ADP’s work in developing the Paris treaty adheres to all of the UNFCCC, Article 4 of the UNFCCC will also apply. It states:

The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.

Translated, this means that, under any treaty based on the UNFCCC (which all U.N. climate agreements are), developing countries will keep their emission reduction commitments only if we in the developed world pay them enough and give them enough of our technology.

Also implied in the article is that, even if we give them everything we promise, developing countries may simply forget about their GHG targets if they interfere with their “first and overriding priorities” of “economic and social development and poverty eradication.”

Developed nations like Canada and the U.S., on the other hand, do not have this option. We must keep our emission reduction commitments no matter how it impacts our economies.

The U.N. has not been hiding this “firewall” between developing and developed nations. They have told us repeatedly in climate change agreements in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Lima that “development and poverty eradication,” not emission reduction, takes top billing for developing countries.

Actions to significantly reduce GHG emissions would entail dramatically cutting back on the use of coal, the source of 81% of China’s electricity and 71% of India’s. As coal is by far the least expensive source of electric power in most of the world, reducing GHG emissions by restricting coal use would unquestionably interfere with development priorities. So, developing countries simply won’t do it, citing the UNFCCC in support of their actions.

Some commentators have speculated that the inclusion of a new phrase in the Lima decision, that countries’ responsibilities will be decided “in light of different national circumstances,” will somehow impose tougher requirements on poor nations over time as they develop. This too is naïve. The UNFCCC treaty, especially Article 4 that addresses the preferential treatment given developing nations, has been the foundation of all U.N. climate negotiations. Developing countries will clearly not allow this to change between now and Paris. AP’s Ritter admitted, “Asked about the implications of the Lima deal, Chinese negotiator Su Wei repeated China’s mantra that the purpose of the Paris agreement is to ‘reinforce and enhance’ the 1992 convention, not rewrite it.”

Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, and the U.S. never ratified it, largely because it lacked legally binding GHG targets for developing countries. So why are developed country governments, those of Canada and the U.S. included, supporting a process that will result in our nations being stuck in another Kyoto?


Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, which challenges the hypothesis that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities will cause dangerous climate change.


  1. Kathy Hamilton  

    IMO, the painfully obvious answer to that closing question would also clarifiy why Canada merely withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol instead of withdrawing from the UNFCCC.


  2. CBayne  

    It is unfortunate that the Heartland Climate Conference or a similar event could not have been organized for July when the Climate Summit of the Americas is to be held in Toronto Canada, hosted by the Provincial Government which has embraced the climate scam so enthusiastically it has dived down the slippery “green”energy slope after Germany.

    The economic suicide of renewable energy has already turned the once powerhouse of Canadian economy into a “have not” province.

    Premier Wynne has embraced the Goracle and his climate circus and is trying to incite other Premiers to cripple their own provinces and, through sub-national agreements, sign wealth and sovereignty away even before the Paris COP21.



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